/News 31.08.23

Location Spotlight: New South Wales – a booming location for blockbuster stories

With its breathtakingly diverse landscapes, New South Wales (NSW) is the leading Australian state for bringing stories to the big screen, no matter the size or scale of production.

From the iconic Sydney Opera House to the Blue Mountains and much more, the region has played host to countless cinematic moments, capturing the imagination of global audiences.

Its tapestry of locations is as rich as it is varied, offering an extraordinary range of backdrops that cater to every genre and story imaginable.

From dazzling cityscapes and pristine beaches to ancient rainforests or charming country towns, NSW is a veritable treasure trove of visual delights.

The Hunter Valley recently featured in Amazon Prime’s The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart (Image credit: Chris Reynolds)

An epicentre of creative industries, NSW is also home to a dedicated workforce of highly skilled cast and crew, not to mention world-class sound stages, post and VFX studios.

On the fringes of Sydney city, Disney Studios is the Southern Hemisphere’s largest end-to-end production facility with nine sound stages, plus extensive support facilities.

NSW town Carcoar recently featured in the BBC/Stan series Ten Pound Poms (Image credit: Anton Denby)

NSW has been home to several large-scale productions, including The Great Gatsby, where about 40% of the production filmed on location, and many parts of Sydney doubled as New York.

The International College of Management in Manly, a 30min drive from Sydney CBD, acted as the exterior of Gatsby’s Mansion while Mount Wilson, a regional location in the Blue Mountains one hour outside the city, was used as the setting for Nick Carraway’s home.

Sydney’s ICMS stood in for Gatsby’s mansion during filming of The Great Gatsby

“[Mount Wilson] had the look of a northern hemisphere town with beautiful gardens of deciduous trees and local roads the like you’d see north of New York, near the Hamptons,” the film’s NSW location manager Phillip Roope said.

“We built part of the set to be next door to the Gatsby house which worked really well. So, Mount Wilson is a real gem in the NSW crown.”

Mt. Wilson’s deciduous trees resemble America’s East Coast (Image credit: Lisa Scope/Screen NSW)

“We also used White Bay next to the Anzac Bridge and did about a kilometre run of green screens there and the whole of Gatsby’s entry into New York was filmed there. Just having that infrastructure close to the city is a real bonus.”

NSW’s coast featured in The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart (Image credit: Chris Reynolds)

Actor and director Mel Gibson chose NSW to film the historical Hacksaw Ridge with the wartime drama shot around Bringelly, Camden, Centennial Park, Goulburn, Manly, Newington Armory, Richmond, and Sydney. Using these locations the Japan of World of War 2 was recreated to tell the film’s story.

NSW’s Snowy Mountains region offers Alpine settings that can double for Europe or North America (Image credit: Lisa Scope/Screen NSW)

NSW also doubled as Japan and California for Angelina Jolie’s 2014 film Unbroken. Set during the Second World War, the film’s main character leaves his small hometown near San Francisco heading off to the Olympics and then to the conflict in the Pacific.

Angelina Jolie watches filming of Unbroken at Moreton Bay. © Universal Pictures. Picture: Vince Valitutti

“Trying to find a location to double as Southern California in the 1930s was really hard but strangely enough in Werris Creek near Tamworth there’s a beautiful and historic railway station,” Roope said.

“It looks like it’s straight out of Disney so was perfect and State Rail came to the party and diverted the trains. We shot there for two days with period costumes and lots of extras, mainly from Tamworth.”

Werris Creek Station (Image credit: Phillip Roope)

“It made a great base as we knew we could get all the accommodation we needed, and Tamworth has a big airport so we could fly in and out on a private plane full of crew.”

The shoot turned out so well the crew extended their stay to shoot additional scenes, using a local home and the main street. “That was a good use of rural NSW to look like California”.

Rural NSW locations like Kandos can stand in as American towns (Image credit: Lisa Scope/Screen NSW)

Unbroken also made use of Cockatoo Island which offered much needed privacy given Jolie’s high profile.

“There’s not too many places in the world where you would be able to get that in the middle of the harbour and have it accessible and usable,” Roope said.

Many scenes of Unbroken were filmed on Sydney’s Cockatoo Island (Image credit: Phillip Roope)

“You had to get there by boat but because it’s a tourist destination they know how to move large things like trucks and crates of equipment.

“The harbour gave you glimpses of water which could pass as Tokyo Bay or a stretch of Japanese water and the lovely big structures looked like army buildings with a very graphic and dramatic look.

“We covered it in fake snow, and it looked absolutely tremendous. It’s such an iconic location and one of the jewels in Sydney’s crown.”

Glenworth Valley (Image credit: Chris Reynolds)

The former Water Board building on Pitt Street – now the Kimpton Margot Sydney luxury hotel – also doubled as the headquarters for the Japanese secret police.

“There’s not too many places in the world where you can get a little slice of pre-war Tokyo, before the Americans bombed it out of existence, but the art deco 1930s building was a great match,” Roope added.

“We also filmed at Richmond Showground, which feels like a Midwest America, as a sports track to show the character getting ready for the Olympics.”

Sydney has stood in for New York in many films including 2019’s I Am Woman (Image credit: Lisa Scope/Screen NSW)

No stranger to blockbusters, NSW also played host to Marvel’s action-packed Thor: Love and Thunder, with Taika Waititi making the most of Sydney’s locations, sound stages and VFX experts to bring his futuristic world to life.

Director Taika Waititi and Chris Hemsworth on the set of Marvel Studios’ Thor: Love and Thunder.
Photo: Jasin Boland. © Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

The Sydney Opera House was one of many landmarks to feature in Pacific Rim: Uprising with numerous scenes from the fantasy action sequel shot in the state, including Santa Monica being recreated in Cronulla.

Cronulla’s beachfronts and dunes are popular filming locations (Image credit: Lisa Scope/Screen NSW)

For the much-loved action sci fi feature, The Wolverine, Smith Street in the NSW suburb of Parramatta doubled as Japan, as well as San Francisco and China in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

Parramatta’s Smith Street doubled for Japan in The Wolverine

“We needed a forest look for The Wolverine and there’s some great old pine trees down near Oberon which we covered in snow to look like we were in Alaska,” Roope said.

“We filmed Shang-Chi on a couple of weekends right next to Disney Studios in Centennial Park. We used the forest there and a very flat area to stage a battle, so we got three different uses.”

Centennial Park provides over 8 hectares of open parkland just minutes from Disney Studios Sydney (image: Sardaka cc4)

“We also shot out at Prospect Reservoir which is huge. We could lock the gate at night and it was very secure because it’s government owned.”

Director Destin Daniel Cretton, fight instructor Alan Tang, crew camera operator, and Simu Liu on the set of Marvel Studios’ Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Photo by Jasin Boland. © Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

“It’s like a real backlot because we changed the landform a lot. We dug into the hill and built an entire Chinese village with a huge temple.”

“It was a big build but we kept it completely secret. I don’t think it ever got into the press that we were there, so you’re out of the public eye to a degree but it has lots of infrastructure and parking.”

Sydney’s The Fullerton Hotel has appeared in films such as The Matrix (Image credit: Lisa Scope/Screen NSW)

The idyllic English countryside was recreated in Centennial Park for Peter Rabbit and its sequel.

And, most recently Universal’s hotly anticipated action thriller The Fall Guy – starring Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt – was filmed in NSW, made possible by the Made in NSW Fund and the state’s Location Incentive.

Filming recently took place for The Fall Guy around Sydney Harbour (Image credit: Leigh)

Production worked closely with city and government officials to close the Sydney Harbour Bridge to traffic for a high-energy stunt sequence, much to the delight of early morning pedestrians passing by.

NSW is seen as a place to double as a variety of locations with filmmakers coming to its shores to tell diverse and interesting stories. If you are looking for an impeccable location to shoot your next movie, look no further than NSW.

The Illawarra region offers many scenic coastal locations (Image credit: Lisa Scope/Screen NSW)

For additional information on filming in NSW contact:

Senior Manager, Destination Attraction (Made in NSW fund)
[email protected]
+61 428 677 883

Manager, Manager Strategy, PDV & Digital Games
[email protected]
+61 430 781 559



The Screen NSW team can assist with information on locations, technical and creative talent, studio space, postproduction, and visual effects facilities and on all aspects of filming.

Connecting filmmakers with exceptional locations, our Reel Scout app also makes exploring the awe-inspiring landscapes more accessible than ever before.

Watch the NSW Locations Reel:


Instagram Werris Creek image (cc3) Mattinbgn